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GREAT ESCAPE Colorado

Begin your Coloradan adventure in one of its capital’s coolest neighbourhoods, before heading south into the mountain-fringed town of Telluride. Next, descend into the mines that put this region on the map, before discovering the mysteries of the people who lived in the awe-inspiring cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde Country
MAP ILLUSTRATION: STELLA ISAAC

Explore the diversity of Denver in one of the city's newest neighbourhoods

IT'S PEAK RUSH HOUR AT UNION STATION in downtown Denver and the place is packed. A family of three weaves through the crowd, dragging rolling suitcases with a tick-tock cadence as they pass the after-work-drinks crowd at Terminal Bar. The station's high, arched ceiling fuses the bustle into an energetic hum. Once nearly another casualty to America's reliance on the automobile, Union Station underwent a major renovation in 2012 and now it's the city's beating urban heart - where spouses stop to buy flowers on the way home or travellers look for reading material at the Tattered Cover.

Just one stop on the A-Line north, Denver's latest phase of redevelopment is taking shape. At Zeppelin Station, a food hall and work space in the River North district - commonly known as RiNo - a man wraps his hands around a massive banh mi, nodding to the beat in the headphones in his ears; elsewhere, a business meeting is conducted over cocktails and pints of beer. The train trundles past, stirring up dust from an empty lot nearby. Justin Anderson, director of hospitality for the newly opened space, looks through the wide, garage-style doors that frame views of downtown against a hazy backdrop of the Front Range mountains. A thick black beard shrouds his chin. 'A lot of people thought that RiNo was rough-and-tumble and it was 10 years ago,' he says, 'but with all the development and everything happening here, it's one of the fastest-growing neighbourhoods in the nation.'

RiNo is north Denver's art district, stuffed with creatives

Zeppelin Station reflects the neighbourhood's industrial heritage: corrugated metal encases the exterior and high ceilings hang over concrete floors. To a large extent, it's also a reflection of Denver, a hodgepodge of influences from around the world. Food runs the international gamut too: bibimbap bowls from Injoi Korean Kitchen, chana masala from Namkeen, and Montreal smoked meats and poutine from Au Feu.

'Denver's a city of transplants,' says Kyle Zeppelin, the real-estate developer behind the Source, an iron foundry-turned-food hall, as well as (you guessed it) Zeppelin Station. 'With all those outsiders, there's an openness to trying new things.' Behind him, graffiti colours the brick wall, a design element Kyle is quick to point out was kept from when the space was an abandoned building.

Just over the South Platte River, a small lunch and catering business is trying something new. It's lunchtime at Comal Heritage Food Incubator, and patrons eat on a patio festooned with picnic tables and planters of tomatoes and herbs. Comal trains women from Denver's large immigrant community to work in the food-service industry, serving up cuisines from their home countries. Inside, over a plate of Syrian-style roast chicken, programme founder Slavica Park says the initiative also connects people. 'Food is one of those things that just brings everybody together,' Slavica says. 'It unites everybody. It breaks down all barriers.'

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Find the complete article and many more in this issue of Lonely Planet - November 2018
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